A few weeks ago, my friend Julie asked if I’d be willing to listen to Jenny Youngman’s new album, The Girl with Good Intentions (released August 1, 2013 on iTunes and for sale on her site) and write about it somewhere. I agreed, and then ran into some existential angst and general busyness that delayed my doing so.
A note on the existential angst: I’ve toyed with the idea of reviewing things – music, movies, books, visual art, etc. – for ages. From time to time I’ve done so, both here on this site (or its previous iteration) and elsewhere, like Story Warren and The Curator. But my dabblings have been rare and unformed enough that I have trouble calling myself a “reviewer.” Besides, I often get off topic and end up sharing whatever the work of art made me start thinking about, rather than checking off the typical boxes of a typical “review.” So I’ve made a decision: I will continue to examine works of art that catch my fancy and share them with you, but I shall no longer call those examinations “reviews.” I hereby dub them “considerations.”
So here you have it, my first try:
Jenny Youngman’s The Girl with Good Intentions: A Consideration
A caveat: know from the start that while I have a whole playlist in my library devoted to the genre I call “Boy and Guitar” (which I interpret fairly broadly to include other instruments and even duets with female voices, but is in essence male-acoustic-singer/songwriter-based), I don’t listen to many “Girl with Guitar” or “Girl with Piano” or “Girl with Anything” music. I generally prefer the male voice to the female.
That said, The Girl with Good Intentions is beginning to break down my barriers. I’ve been listening to it on and off for the past couple of weeks and Jenny’s songwriting and lyrics are catching on in my brain. She has a lovely voice and uses it in partnership with piano-driven instrumentals produced by Andrew Osenga.
Many of Jenny’s songs are challenges and reminders to the North American Christian. Songs like “The Girl With Good Intentions” or “The Half of It” raise complex matters for those of us in North America who see the needs of the world and hear about all the organizations doing good things around the world in the name of Christ – there is a tension in our response to these calls for help: real needs exist and we have been blessed with the ability and the freedom to help; but on the other hand, we cannot do everything, either financially or physically. We must make choices, invest wisely, and seek justice and the spread of the gospel around the globe: for the glory of God, not just to feel good about ourselves. Jenny is an artist-partner with International Justice Mission, and wants to raise awareness and support for the fight against human trafficking.
The two songs that stand out to me particularly on the album are “The Preacher’s Wife” and “The Places You Will Go.” In “Preacher’s Wife,” Jenny is clearly speaking from personal experience about the expectations we tend to have of our church leaders – and their wives, particularly. The song is funny, “Everyone who meets her comes to Jesus /…And no one knows how she keeps it all together/ But they expect no less from the preacher’s wife.” I grew up in a ministry family. I remember the shocked looks on my friends’ faces when I disabused them of some of the mythical perceptions they had of my missionary parents. I have great parents. But they’re not perfect. And they would be the last people to want anyone thinking that of them. Jenny captures this in a gentle satire that all of us – both the preachers’ wives and those watching them – need to hear.
“The Places You Will Go” is lovely – mostly vocal and piano, with very little accessory. It’s the cry of a mother for her child. At its heart, it is the words of my sisters, the words of my mother, the words of every mother who wants to see her children rise and go forth in the lessons they’ve learned, walking with the Savior hand in hand.
Go all the places you will go.
See all the things your eyes will see.
The God who called your very life into being
Is everything you need,
Lights the path along the road
of all the places you will go
From Jenny’s Bio:
Jenny Youngman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter who is making her way on the scene with her second studio album. With themes of justice-seeking, the search for significance in the mundane, intentional living, extending grace to ourselves and others, and discovering bravery, The Girl With Good Intentions takes the listener on a journey from simply having good intentions to getting our hands in the dirt and doing something good in the world.
The Girl With Good Intentions is available to download from iTunes and physical CDs are available from www.jennyyoungman.com